The Effects of Eating Disorders on Your Body
Eating disorders can be damaging to all areas of your life. With constant crash diets, a compulsion to over exercise, the binging and purging, these can all cause severe damage the body. Self-induced vomiting, malnutrition, laxative abuse and dehydration, they can all destroy your internal organs. If you develop an eating disorder you may subject yourself to chronic conditions such as: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or arthritis.
Find out what an eating disorder can do to your vital organs.
Scans of the brain show portions of it undergo structural changes and abnormal activity in periods of anorexia. Some of these abnormalities return to normal once weight gain occurs but some effects can be permanent. These effects can be the cause of numbness, confusion or even seizures 1.
The macula and accompanying layers of nerves in an individual with anorexia can become significantly thinner. A loss of electrical activity, essential to the brains ability to process visual signals can also occur 2. Bulimia can also cause harm to the eyes. There is a potential for broken blood vessels due to constant vomiting.
Hair loss is a more than common sign of anorexia and it is cause by vitamin deficiency, malnutrition and dehydration. In contrast, lanugo, the typically fine and soft hairs on the face will grow as a natural defense of malnutrition and starvation as it try to keep the body warm3.
Repeated vomiting can cause the enamel of the teeth to erode while the lack of vitamins and nutrients from anorexia can cause the teeth to become brittle and weak. Other symptoms of eating disorders can include an increase in cavities, discolored and an irregular shape of the teeth 4.
Anorexia can cause serious problems to the heart including: rhythm disturbances, systolic and diastolic ventricular dysfunction, mitral valve prolapse, myofibrillar destruction, congestive heart failure and much more 5. Bulimia can cause changes in the metabolism, which can cause arrhythmia or even death while binge eating can cause heart disease 6.
A binge eating disorder can lead to nonalcoholic steatosis or Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) 7. Anorexia and bulimia can also cause acute liver damage.
Normal digestion in the intestines can become irregular and slowed down which can cause severe gastrointestinal problems. A deficiency in digestive enzymes can also lead to a lack of absorption causing malnutrition. Diarrhea and or urinary tract infections are also common 8.
Low blood pressure is a dangerous symptom that can lead to a lowered heart rate and or heart failure. A blood chemical imbalances like low potassium or iron (anemia) can potentially lead to death 9.
Repeated vomiting from bulimia can cause acidic damage to the esophagus known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. A ruptured esophagus is also a possibility 10.
Shortness of breath due to respiratory muscle weakness can occur. Studies have shown a reduction in the diffusing capacity of the lungs as well as a reduction in maximal and minimal expiratory pressures 11.
Stomach pains and digestion problems are very common symptom in those with eating disorders. More acute complications could include peptic ulcers, an erosion of the stomach (duodenal lining) 12.
Acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, nephrolithiasis and electrolyte abnormalities are all complications caused by anorexia nervosa.13. A lowered intake of nutrients from purging can lead to kidney stones or even kidney failure 14.
There are a number of risk factors related to eating disorders and a woman’s reproductive cycle, many of which lead to infertility. These factors can include: irregular menstrual cycles, reduced egg quality, poor uterine environment, ovarian failure, and miscarriage. Permanent and irreversible damage is possible in those who have suffered from anorexia and bulimia for several years 15.
Some of the skin related symptoms could included: acne, discoloration, slower wound healing, lanugo-like body hair, seborrheic dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), edema (swelling), scurvy, xerosis (dry or cracking skin) or acral coldness 16.
Fingernails and toenails can become weak and brittle due to the lack of essential nutrients from proteins and fats that are required to grow keratin. Keratin is what makes up finger and toenails 17.
Osteoporosis, a condition that causes a loss in bone density and an increased risk of fracture can be attributed to anorexia. Calcium deficiencies are also a cause of bone loss, which is common among those suffering from anorexia and bulimia 18.
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